18 East: A Chat with Antonio Ciongoli About His Travel-Inspired New Project

Antonio likes Italian, but now he wants you to try something Indian. Other options include Japanese, Irish, or North African, because, for him, each place offers something interesting.
We’re chatting in La Cumbre, one of the restaurants in San Francisco that claims to be the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito, and Antonio is all smiles.
“Man, you guys have it good. There’s probably a million places to get Mexican food out here. I love it.”  We’re talking about Antonio’s new project, 18 East, which was born, in part, from his visit to Rajasthan a few years ago. He was struck by the various patterns and silhouettes that, while commonplace there, are relatively unused by Western designers. Inspired by his visit, he designed a handful of clothing for his subsequent collections for Eidos, but it wasn’t enough.
“I loved my time at Eidos, but there was so much I couldn’t do,” he recalls. “For one thing, there are so many artisans all over the world, but with Eidos, I could only use their Italian factories. Not that they weren’t great – their knitwear is simply amazing – but they just can’t recreate what we saw in India. In Jaipur, there are huge indigo fields as far as the eye can see where they hand-dip and then air-dry garments. No factory in Italy can do that.”  
“Besides, the idea of massive two-season collections doesn’t make sense to me,” he continues. “There’s the stuff I’d do for Eidos, and then the exclusives for various vendors, like Barney’s and Bloomingdales – literally hundreds of pieces, all at the same time. Guys aren’t looking for polo coats in September – they’re looking for transitional pieces.” With 18 East, Antonio is able to focus on a few dozen pieces seasonal-appropriate every couple months. “I’d rather do a few unique pieces that I’m really excited about, rather than producing an item just to check off a list.”
While it’s true that the items from this drop are influenced by the textiles he saw in India & Nepal, they are not simple imitations. The next day I go to Unionmade to check out the clothes in person, and I’m impressed with just how wearable everything is. Sure, there’s a uniqueness to them – the hand-blocked prints and intricate woven patches, especially – but nothing is so far out that would make the wearer self-conscious. “I didn’t want to create a line that would alienate people,” Antonio says while sipping a beer at the store. He then points to the corduroy sherpa coat hanging on a mannequin. “Take this jacket, for example. It’s my favorite from the collection. It reminds me of something you’d see at a Vermont head shop.”

18 East "Charlotte" sherpa travel vest and belter corduroy rancher coat.

18 East “Charlotte” sherpa travel vest and belted corduroy rancher coat.

Online, I immediately was drawn to the red pajamas (inspired by Steve McQueen’s character in Bullitt) and made a b-line over to them on the rack.  Unfortunately, photos and words can’t do them justice – they really are special.  In two seconds they were off the rack and bagged at the counter, and I wore them that night.  They’re a little different, but the muted color and repeating kalamkari and bagru patterns provide just the right amount of visual interest, and I’ve found they go well under sweaters and jackets.

18 East "Julian" Vintage pajama created with kalamkari - a traditional block-printing method.

18 East “Julian” Vintage pajama created with kalamkari – a traditional block-printing method.

I also picked up the tie-waist cardigan. Made from a donegal-style yarn of sheep’s wool and yak, Antonio chose to use a basketweave to fashion this kimono-style sweater, giving it an insane amount of depth and texture. “That cardigan was a happy accident,” he recounts as I try it on. “We first made it without the placket, and the ends curled up in a funky way.  Then someone attached this placket from the inside, and it just fell perfectly.”
Prices are reasonable, and the general silhouette of the clothes, while loose, is far from baggy.  As a reference, I’m 5’8” and 160lbs, and I took a small in everything and felt comfortable. This first drop had nominal sizing information on the 18East website (e.g. “This garment is oversized”) and it took me a couple tries to find the best size for me in person. Future collections will have measurements to minimize confusion and help get a better idea of how each garment fits. It’s a departure from his much-beloved suiting at Eidos, and for the time being, Antonio isn’t planning on introducing any tailored clothing at all.

18 East "Hima" chainstitch crewneck and "Nomad" tie waist cardigan.

18 East “Hima” chainstitch crewneck and “Nomad” tie waist cardigan.

“Don’t wear any of these clothes with a tie,” he chuckles. “Matching tops and bottoms, though, that’s something I’d like to explore a little in the future.” He shows me pictures from a photoshoot he did earlier in the week with Marco (@KamoteJoe on the forum) wearing pants and a shirt in matching fabrics. “You see this often in India, and it looks fantastic. You’ll see something like this later on. Don’t get me wrong – an Italian suit is great, but it’s not the only suit there is.”
While it may be an obvious statement that there is wearable fashion everywhere, it’s another thing entirely to incorporate global influences in a way that doesn’t come off as ethnic appropriation. From Antonio’s collections, you get the feeling that if Antonio wasn’t in fashion, he’d be a chef, finding inspiration in local flavors around the world.
“But what is local?” he asks back at the restaurant, and it’s a good question. The Mission burrito, stuffed to cylindrical hugeness with equal amounts of beans, rice, and meat, is undeniably San Franciscan, but has origins elsewhere. Ditto for cioppino, chop suey, sourdough, Irish coffee…the list goes on. Like many international cities, the Bay Area readily embraces foreign tastes and incorporates them often into their dishes, because how boring would it be to eat the same thing over and over again?
“I couldn’t agree more,” Antonio says between bites. “As much as I love the pizza in Napoli, I love Philly pizza just as much. As long as it’s good, does it matter where it comes from?”

Photos courtesy of 18East and Ian Anderson
Discuss 18 East with other Styleforum members on this thread.

Blue Blue Japan SS2017

The Blue Blue Japan SS2017 lookbook has just been released, and we’re pleased to share it with you. For the spring season, Okura’s house brand has gone slightly punk, with Western-style patchwork jeans, souvenir jackets, Doc Marten-style 10-hole boots, and even braces – all dyed indigo, of course.  Even the boots, which look aIn addition, they’ve showcased some beautiful gradient dye-work, which is really a house specialty. While you can still expect to find all your favorite Blue Blue Japan standbys – such as beautiful patchwork garments and hefty sashiko – it’s nice to see the brand take a more directional approach for their seasonal lookbook. As usual, there are some stellar women’s garments, and the full breadth of Blue Blue Japan’s offering really deserves a look, if only for the sheer intensity of their dye work. A slideshow selection is below, but you can see the full catalog, and even order directly via email, here.

 

 


 

All photos courtesy Blue Blue Japan/ Seilin & Co.

Rough & Tumble from Nepenthes

The Nepenthes NY store in New York’s garment district stocks a lot of Engineered Garments, the company’s best-known brand in the United States (and often the easiest to wear). But EG has a lot of stockists, while some of the lines in Nepenthes stable are much more limited in distribution. Rough & Tumble, billed as “nontraditional shirtmakers,” complements EG’s established rumpledness with unexpected design touches (last year I picked up an oxford shirt with a bandanna-print pocket) and less dedication to Americana. This spring Rough & Tumble via Nepenthes NY is offering a couple of linen jackets, Bermuda shorts, and summer shirts with charmingly goofy details–including cruiser pockets, built-in (?) pocket squares, zips and snaps, and batik prints. We only have some teaser shots; visit Nepenthes for a better look.

 

White Mountaineering fall 2012

In tailoring parlance, pattern matching generally refers to aligning stripes, plaids, or windowpanes at the seams of a tailored garment (where possible). Yosuke Aizawa of White Mountaineering has a different idea of pattern matching: plenty of patterns, very little matching. Fall 2012 has block patchwork, clever mountain-print camo, and Missoni-al zigs and zags, in a palette dominated by grays and reds. The parkas, vests, and backpacks are familiar from the brand’s past seasons of outdoor gear influenced clothes, but camouflaged among them are textured and patterned knits and even a few sportcoat-riffing jackets (and a paisley tie–I can only assume it’s Gore Tex). The runway was an airport walkway for White Mountaineering fall 2012, as the brand send baggage-laden, smartphone-checking models down the runway as well as WM rep Thomas in uniform.

 

Photos via fashionsnap and Styleforum member sipang.

Robert Geller Fall 2012 – Interview and Collection

Styleforum’s Marc Bain brings you a Robert Geller interview and a discussion of the New York-based designer’s Fall 2012 collection.


For his fall 2012 collection, the eleventh for his namesake label, Robert Geller looked to England for inspiration. Models layered with sturdy wools, rain-repellent waxed cottons, and that most British of fabrics, tweed, walked a dirt runway that seemed to lead from an English garden. Gray, brown, and olive dominated the palette, while a few bright notes of marigold and fiery orange sparked amid all the sobriety.  ’80s British post-punk influenced the collection (The Sound’s “Where the Love Is” provided the show’s soundtrack), and a sense of brooding disquiet infused the clothes. Maybe more notable was their debt to English tailoring, with sharply cut blazers and coats, and, in place of Geller’s popular jeans, wool trousers.

Robert Geller’s secret garden.

Although not a departure from his previous work, this was Geller’s most mature show. Some traits were recognizable from past seasons: mesh underlayers and skinny leather pants; sweatshirts, including Geller’s well-known dip-dyed version; ballooning lounge pants. Footwear—suede chelsea boots; balmorals in black, or brown with a black toe—came from the designer’s ongoing collaboration with Common Projects. He also continued his experimentation with the silhouette, balancing slim and voluminous, cropped and elongated shapes. Geller took some of his most successful ideas of the past few years and integrated them into the wardrobe of his slightly older, more sophisticated English muse.

After his show at New York Fashion Week, a smiling Geller spoke with Styleforum contributor Marc Bain about his new collection, English style, and why he really wants his own line of socks.

Dip dye and layers (and non-Men’s-Clothing-approved buttoning) at Robert Geller fall 2012.

Marc Bain: English tailoring and style had a big influence on this collection. What makes English style so great?

Robert Geller: Since I’ve been of an age to recognize style, when I go to London I like the way that the boys dress. There’s a little bit of a dandy-ness to it, but it’s still very masculine. That goes very well with the way I like to dress. There’s still a little sensitivity, a little romance, but I still want it to be masculine. So that really drew me to it, but also the music. I really wanted to look into what it is about English culture that I like so much.

MB: When you think about this collection in the street, do you have a particular scene in mind?

RG: We always design the collection for the street. In the end it’s a business, of course, and I always think about the street. With men, you have your things you obviously need to have: a trenchcoat, you need to have your duffle coat. You need to have all these elements. It’s spinning it in a way that works with what you’re thinking about and where you want to go. So the way it is on the runway, with the bowler hat, isn’t the way people are going to wear it. But definitely some of the layering and the way it’s put together, I would love to see people wearing that on the street.

MB: I imagine it can be frustrating when you make a cool piece that doesn’t get produced. Are there any items this season that you really want to see on the racks in stores?

RG: Yeah, the blazers this season, especially the soft-wool yellow one with the gray trim. I love that jacket. People do buy that from me, but it’s not the main thing people come to me for, like the stronger outerwear, and people want the denim and the shirts. But I’d really like people to get some of the more eccentric pieces.

“I just throw some light / On your cold floors” — The Sound

MB: Are there any fabrics or fabric treatments you relied on a lot in this collection?

RG: Yeah. We actually did a lot of research about the English fabrics, and we ended up using Harris tweed in the collection. We did a lot of coated, waxed cotton, and things that are very British.

MB: For a rainy day, that sort of thing?

RG: For a rainy day, yeah. We have a Mackintosh. All of those things are very directly influenced by England.

MB: You’ve come a long way since Cloak, a line people still talk about. Collectors buy and sell it online and it’s highly sought after. What do you think made it such a popular label?

RG: I think the timing. There wasn’t so much menswear coming out of New York, and I think it surprised people. I look back at it and I think it was cool. I think it was fresh at the time, that look, much fresher than it is today I mean. My development since then has been changing. I’m getting older. That was something I did with Alexandre [Plokhov] and it was a great partnership, but now I’m doing my own thing.

Chunky knits at Robert Geller fall 2012.

MB: You mentioned really liking the tailored pieces from this collection. Do you see yourself heading more in that direction as you mature as a designer?

RG: Yeah, but also I like the mixture. I like to take sportswear and to mix it with tailoring. I think they go together really well. If you’re smart about the styling, I think it can look beautiful. I don’t think it has to be either-or. There are definitely looks where it’s just tailoring and it’s really beautiful, but I like the mixture: the soft and the hard, a little bit playful but refined. You can wear it all day.

MB: Can you talk to me about the collaborations you did for the collection? You’re still working with Common Projects, of course, and now you’re collaborating on socks with Etiquette Clothiers. Why did you want to do socks?

RG: I met this guy, Benjamin [Vergnion], who does this sock brand called Etiquette. We got to talking and I said I always wanted to have Robert Geller socks, and he was like, “Let’s do it.” He makes the finest quality socks in Italy, really amazing, and we knew that we had a lot of these shorter pants—jodhpurs, rolled-up pants—and there were going to be a lot of socks. So rather than buying black socks, because that’s boring, being able to make these really beautiful socks with Etiquette seemed like a great option.

Polka dots and billowy trousers from Geller.

MB: And what about Common Projects? Anything new going on there?

RG: New shoes. I love working with those guys. I think their collection is amazing. We sit together, we think about what we want to do, and season after season we can deliver such a beautiful product.

MB: How has your Robert Geller Seconds line been received since its launch?

RG: It’s good. It’s a way for me to make the things I want to wear when I’m either playing sports or just going out and being casual. You can also integrate it: most of my undershirts are Seconds and the sweatshirt that I have. It’s just a way to make it a little more approachable.

MB: I can see that you’re still playing around with the silhouette in your looks, something you started doing more of in your last collection. Can you talk a little about that?

RG: It started with Raf [Simons], but then definitely with Dior when Hedi [Slimane] was there, it became so slender. I loved it when I first saw them doing it. It was great. But it’s time for a change. It’s not saying, “Now it’s ’80s big, huge shoulders,” but like pushing and pulling the silhouette, mixing it up, and just seeing ways that feel right. I guess I’m figuring out where I feel like it should go as I’m doing it.

MB: I noticed some pieces from previous collections, the mesh for example. Why did you bring it back?

RG: It’s a great styling element, even for me just wearing it in my wardrobe. Instead of just wearing an A-shirt, you have a little bit more texture and you can play around with colors. It’s part of continuing the styling and vision of the past season into this new one. I like that idea.

Yuketen fall/winter 2012.

Yuki Matsuda and his team at Meg Company have carved themselves such a distinct niche with Yuketen that it’s impressive, season after season, to see how creative they can be while remaining within that niche. Like Willard Wigan, they’re designing on the head of a pin. Yuketen takes American-made classic shoe shapes and applies unusual materials and combinations that allude to culture and subculture, fashion and antifashion. When the shoes are beautiful, they’re be-yoo-ti-full, and when they’re ugly, they’re kind of beautiful, too.

Fall 2012 sees more examples of exotic skins, as well as standbys like calf, roughout, and shell cordovan. The exotics–like croc, hair-on-hide calf, and reptile leather–may not end up on many shelves but it’s pretty to think they might. The standbys are peerless in quality of build, and their finest work is in shoes that are the just-right blend of design distinction and skilled make.

Maine guide boots in exotic skins. Snakes in Arcadia, look out.

 

Suede boondocker style plaintoes on a natural welt and lug sole were my pick of the season.

 

Some other standouts for fall 2012 were captoe brogue boots on a commando sole, loafers on crepe, and a camo Maine guide that shares fabric panels with Monitaly’s fall ’12 collection. For fans of the classic white Vibram sole, it remains represented if not as strongly as it is from other bootmakers. They’re also using some new Vibram sole models to mix it up. Natural crepe is still likely the most comfortable, but it is an acquired taste for many.

The camo used in these Maine guides is echoed in the Monitaly clothing collection, and is based on a WWII era Marine Corp govt issue fabric.

Hair on hide calf boots.

Loafers with croc strap on crepe soles. All crepe sole everything!

 

Ripple sole plaintoes in calf.

The last few seasons have seen a crest of Americana-influenced men’s clothing, and some would argue that it’s time to start expecting a trough. Yuketen has been navigating the seas of American influence for a long time, and with fresh takes and designs stays on on even keel.

Our Legacy fall/winter 2012.

With a handful of seasons now in the rear view, Our Legacy doesn’t need much of an intro. Since 2008, OL has put out eight collections of arty, northern European casual wear with diminishing hints of prep (nothing too cute or go-to-hell, more like chinos and button-down-collar shirts) and more and more use of unusual fabrics. In the last couple of seasons they’ve edged toward stronger texture and more refined raw materials, and some of the more interesting pieces have incorporated ethnic prints.

At Pitti, I talked through some of Our Legacy’s collection for 2012 with Jockum Hallin. Hallin told me their romanticized vision of the brand’s character is a guy, maybe a struggling artist, who manages a triumph–the sale of one of his finer creations. With the proceeds he decides to treat himself to a luxury: maybe a new coat, maybe a pair of English shoes. Then he incorporates that into the rest of his beat-up, work-worn starving artist’s wardrobe. It’s a new origin story for the high low mix Our Legacy does well–beautiful topcoats paired with less tailored pieces, for instance. Hallin said you’ll continue to see some of their perennial shapes: “great sweat” sweatshirts, similar shirt cuts, because returning customers demand them, but there are some new silhouettes, particularly in outerwear.

A dominant color in fall 2012 will be carmine red, and variations on it. OL had sweaters and shirts in variations on the tone, which was muddier than I expected, less the color of blood than of dried blood. Other pieces that jumped off the racks were more Northampton-made shoes, a shawl collar overcoat with closely spaced buttons in nubbly, water resistant wool, paisley shirt jackets (with pants to match, if you so choose), and a reversed star-print shirt. There’s a mix of spring and fall pieces in here, so keep an eye on ourlegacy.se because some will be available sooner than later.

Carmine red sweater

Camel topcoat in Casentino-ish wool.

The 3 roll 2 jacket gets a welt breast pocket rather than patch.

Detail.

Paisley shirt jac.

Ethnic print, washed shirt (no button collar on this one).

OL will continue their work with Ebbets Field Flannels.

Reverse star print fabric shirt.

Pane e Panno Casentino at Isaia

Standing around in Panno Casentino

One of the standout pieces for FW 2012 season was Isaia’s peaked lapel, camel topcoat in Panno Casentino fabric, the yarn of which, as was explained to me, is roughly brushed before looming, so that the dense woven fabric comes off the loom with a rough, pre-pilled, look.

The mark of Isaia

The Isaia crew had a great strategy.  When you are being plied wine and really great food, including some some of the best pickled mushrooms in olive oil I’ve eaten in a while, you are going to inspect every piece very carefully, especially when the alternative were overpriced Italian “toast” sandwiches, essentially a single, thin, slice of meat between two pieces of bread.  Even without all the help, I would still have noticed this piece, the texture of which immediately jumps out.

Isaia had the best spread in at Pitti Uomo on Tuesday, January 10, at around 11 a.m.

Later in the day, we saw the fabric again in a green coat with a much more conservative cut and turnback cuffs at Liverano&Liverano.  While Pete was busy talking to Taka in the back, Stephanie (the Styleforum sales rep) and I took a load off in some very comfortable chairs, and chatted with Mr. Liverano’s daughter, who had been working at the shop for 20 years.  “My father told me, either I go to school, or I work.  So I work.  20 years.”  I suppose that it’s as good a way as any to choose a career, especially when your father is one of the foremost tailors in Florence.

Liverano & Liverano #ogflorence #turnbackcuffs #pannocasentino

She told us that Panno Casentino was a very famous material from Florence.   It is known for its durability and natural water resistance.   Tuscany being one of the cooler, wetter, regions in Italy, it’s nice to not be soaked.  Very practical, and though Italy doesn’t really get winter except in the far north, I suppose that 50 degrees (F)  would be cold enough for me to enjoy the awesome Italian tradition of a coffee and pastry eaten at the bar, in the late afternoon, while wearing my Panno Casentino coat.

The next day, we saw the same fabric in a coat from Our Legacy, a brand from Sweden, where clothing that holds up against winter is actually necessary.  I suppose that this might be a microtrend in the making.

Firenze via Sweden in Firenze - Our Legacy